SoundExchange is an independent, non-profit performance rights organization. It collects and distributes digital performance royalties on behalf of more than 130,000 recording artists and master rights owners; that includes unsigned artists, singers whose albums have gone platinum, major labels and indies. In the age of streaming, SoundExchange is busier than ever. Senior Counsel Brieanne Elpert has a unique role in the organization’s efforts to support recording artists and rights owners in the digital age.
Q: What’s an average week like for you?
A: The thing I like best is that there is no average week. SoundExchange is a fast-paced and dynamic place to work. The main part of what I do is to enable our enforcement efforts toward digital radio services that could or should be paying the license fees that SoundExchange collects and distributes. To that end, I’m always engaging with the staff in our legal department, who are on the front lines of contacting these services, both to answer their questions, and to chart the direction for our various enforcement programs. I am also on point for any litigation SoundExchange is involved in unrelated to rate settings, so that brings on a different set of issues.
Q: Why did you decide to work at performance rights organization on behalf of recording artists and rights owners? Do you have a musical background? Or were you attracted by the legal issues?
A: I love music and the arts. I really wanted to work at a place where those things, and the people who make them, are valued. Everyone at SoundExchange is on board with our mission to fight for artists and make sure they are compensated. As for me, I’m no great musician, but I play a little piano and love to dance. The legal issues are really interesting, too. Copyright law is fascinating and complex. At SoundExchange, the attorneys all have this extraordinary expertise in a really specific area of the law.
A: Broadly speaking, the Library of Congress designated SoundExchange to administer the statutory licenses that allow digital music services including Pandora, SiriusXM and Music Choice – and another 2,800-plus digital music services – to play music. We are involved in litigation related to the underpayment of royalties under the statutory licenses.
We also have a major role in the proceedings to set royalty rates paid by webcasters and digital music services. These proceedings take place before the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), a tribunal appointed by the Librarian of Congress specifically to set rates for the various statutory licenses available under U.S. copyright law.
SoundExchange represents all recording artists and copyright owners in these proceedings, and we advocate for rates that fairly reflect the value of music.
Currently, we are focused on rates for SiriusXM satellite radio (also known as Satellite Digital Audio Radio Services, or “SDARS”) and Preexisting Subscription Services (PSS). A decision on the upcoming “SDARS III” rate case will establish royalty rates from 2018-2022 for SiriusXM and for two services in existence prior to 1998 that deliver audio-only music programming to cable and satellite television packages – Music Choice and Muzak.
Last year, the CRB established new royalty rates for webcasters in its “Web IV” proceeding for the years 2016-2020. Because we believe the rates established do not reflect a fair market price for music, SoundExchange appealed the CRB’s decision.
We pursue every legal avenue to increase sound recording royalty rates, no matter what platform music is played on.
Q: Does SoundExchange only work with digital music services that use the statutory license?
A: We also administer a number of direct deals, and we are delivering unique value to the digital service providers, labels and artists. That includes ensuring that artists get paid directly, ensuring that money doesn’t fall through the cracks, quickly identifying overlapping claims and rights and eliminating overhead and duplication of labor.
Q: Copyright reform is discussed with greater frequency. Does SoundExchange believe copyright reform is needed now?
A: SoundExchange absolutely supports copy right reform. We need to reform our copyright laws so music creators get fair market value for their work across all platforms and technologies. Terrestrial radio demonstrates the need for reform as well as anything. Terrestrial radio doesn’t pay performance royalties.
The Fair Play Fair Pay Act would end the carve-out that allows terrestrial radio stations to make billions of dollars from music while paying nothing to recording artists and rights owners.
To learn more about SoundExchange and become a member, visit www.soundexchange.com